Product Love Podcast: Jackie Bavaro, Head of Product Management at Asana

This week on Product Love, I talked to Jackie Bavaro. Upon graduating from Cornell with degrees in economics and computer science, she immediately went into product management at Microsoft. After working at Google, she moved over to Asana where she is currently the head of product management. And yes, there’s more. She’s also the co-author of a book, “Cracking the PM Interview.”

Before it was an official book, it was a blog where Jackie wrote about her product management experiences. Friends of friends were asking for advice with regard to her experience applying to Google’s Associate Product Management program, and she compiled her resources and guides into a single space.

In this week’s episode, we discuss Jackie’s tips on product management, as well as how Asana’s product management team functions.

Cracking the PM Interview

It’s been a few years since the book was published, but an interesting use case for it has been for actual product managers looking to hire. Product management is a relatively fresh field, with graduate programs and camps popping up to meet educational needs. While its newness can make it difficult to break into for future product managers, it’s equally difficult for product managers to know whom to hire. Jackie’s book has proven to be a use case for hiring managers who want to know what skills they should be looking for. It’s even been a topic in one of our recent debates on how to effectively hire PMs.

Jackie agrees with homework assignments when it comes to PM interviews. Having assignments is a scalable way to interview candidates because the rubric allows them to open the top of the funnel more broadly. Looking at homework assignments in an anonymous way also eliminates a lot of unconscious bias.

Product Sense

Jackie often writes about “product sense.” This concept is an important skill that all product managers should have: an accumulation of all the intuition you build up after all of these experiences. A product manager’s “spidey-sense,” if you will.

In order to develop product sense, Jackie believes the first key is to have customer focus that comes from directly talking to the customer and looking at the metrics to gauge their behavior. It also requires evaluation on the launches your team has made, and how that choice has impacted things.

The next thing to develop product sense is to use a lot of products. One of the best kind of innovations for product managers is to cross apply a product pattern they’ve seen, to a different domain. For instance, if you like the way Spotify implements and designs their search bar, why not implement that in your own product? It’s a way to creatively solve problems and add new methods.

Check out this week’s episode for more ideas on how to develop your product sense and prepare for product management interviews. Remember to subscribe to us on iTunes!